From Walt Whitman to Anne Bradstreet, the poets on this list explore what it means to love for or long for a child, show appreciation for a father’s sacrifices, and express a need for a deeper, more genuine relationship with one’s father. There is a poem for every reader on this list, whether they’re close to their father or are looking to connect with a newborn child.
Best Poems for Father's Day
- 1 On the Beach at Night Alone by Walt Whitman
- 2 After Making Love We Hear Footsteps by Galway Kinnell
- 3 Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be by Ross Gay
- 4 A Child is Something Else Again by Yehuda Amichai
- 5 Only a Dad by Edgar Guest
- 6 Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams
- 7 Spree by Maine Kumin
- 8 To Her Father with Some Verses by Anne Bradstreet
- 9 Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
- 10 My Father by Peter Oresick
- 11 FAQs
‘On the Beach at Night Alone’ by Walt Whitman depicts the relationship between a parent and his child. With his normal focus on natural imagery, the poet’s speaker assures the child that they shouldn’t weep and that the “ravening clouds shall not long be victorious.” They’re a passing moment, and the “immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive / moons shall again shine. Here are a few more lines:
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Read more Walt Whitman poems.
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps by Galway Kinnell
‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ is a beautiful poem about a family spending time together. The speaker and their partner make love with the “familiar touch of the long-married” and then hear footsteps as their child “flops down between us and hugs and snuggles / himself to sleep.” This piece is perfect for a parent looking to relive the tender moments when their child was of a similar age or someone who wants to celebrate their present family dynamic. Here are a few more lines:
In the half darkness we look at each other
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body
Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be by Ross Gay
‘Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be’ is a contemporary poem written in couplets. It was written for a future child. The speaker celebrates the possibility of “you” and if “you come to be.” The speaker asks the child questions, wondering if the child will curse him or rise up and “grow big and strong.” By the end of the poem, this possible future dad has decided that any child he has is going to be the best of him. Here are a few lines:
you too remain some cellular snuggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm
swim of my mostly quietest self. If you come to be—
And who knows?—I wonder, little bubble
‘A Child is Something Else Again’ uses repetition and allusions to Christian imagery to describe a child and how important their presence can be. This poem is perfect for a father (or mother) celebrating the possibilities of a child they’re caring for. They are “something else again” and are described as delivering “you from death.” Here are a few more lines:
A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he’s full of words,
in an instant he’s humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.
The text used for this analysis was translated by Chana Bloch.
In ‘Only a Dad,’ the speaker repeats the title as a refrain throughout the poem. The speaker describes how the dad has a “tired face” after coming home every day from work. He brings “little of gold or fame” to show for his efforts. As the poem progresses, the speaker minimizes the man’s accomplishments and compares him to the many other dads in the world. But, as the poem concludes, the speaker adds that he may be “Only a Dad,” but he’s also “the best of men.” Here are a few more lines:
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
Explore more Edgar Guest poems.
‘Danse Russe’ by William Carlos Williams explores a father’s moments of solitude while his wife and child are sleeping. He dances naked, “grotesquely,” in front of his mirror, singing softly to himself. He admires his body and, in turn, admires the life he’s made for himself. Depending on the reader, these lines may come across as genuine or sarcastic, especially as he sings the words, “I am lonely, lonely. / I was born to be lonely.” Here are a few more lines:
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
Discover more William Carlos Williams poems.
Spree by Maine Kumin
‘Spree’ is another interesting contemporary poem on this list. The speaker describes their father as a large, pacing animal. He moves about upstairs, “neither wild nor yet domesticated.” He and the speaker’s mother fight over bills, and from a young person’s perspective, she looks on. The poet uses numerous instances of figurative language to describe what the atmosphere was like in their home. Here are a few lines:
Papá, would we so humbly come
to the scene in the upstairs hall
on the first of every month, except
you chose the mice for footmen, clapped
to call up the coach and four?
In this short poem, the poet acknowledges how gracious she is for her father. She’s not done enough in her life to adequately pay him back for what he’s done for her. Her debts are huge and won’t be paid until she dies.
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
Read more Anne Bradstreet poems.
‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ is a powerful poem about how important it is, despite death’s inevitability, to fight against it until the bitter end. Fans of Dylan Thomas have speculated that the poem was written for his ailing father, who passed away the year after the poem was first published. But, without clear evidence, it’s important to consider the speaker as separate from the poet. The speaker spends most of the poem telling readers, and it as it turns out their own father, not to give into death peacefully and calmly. One shouldn’t just accept that it’s coming and go to it willingly. Good people resist until the last moment, knowing that there’s more that they could to improve the world. Here are a few lines from the poem:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Explore more Dylan Thomas poems.
‘My Father’ is a thoughtful contemporary poem that recalls the speaker’s understanding of his father’s life and struggles. He looks back on his father as a “tired man.” He lived through loss and economic difficulties, and now, as his son, the speaker is trying to understand him better. The poem evokes a longing for connection that many children feel for their fathers. Here are a few lines from this poem:
My father was four years in the war,
and afterward, according to my mother,
had nothing to say. She says he trembled
in his sleep the next four years.
The themes common to Father’s Day poems are love, appreciation, and memories. Poets often look into their past and recall the times they spent with family members. They might also share what they think the future is going to be like.
Poets write Father’s Day poems in order to celebrate their relationship with their father or to explore them in more depth. Not all relationships are good, and some Father’s Day poems make this clear as well. Other poets write from the father’s perspective, explore their relationship with their child.
Father’s Day poems are important because they are a way of exploring the different relationships between fathers and their children. No matter who has written the poem, readers are going to be able to relate in some way. Everyone has a father, in one form or another, and everyone is someone’s child. While not all readers will have children, there are many connections to be made.
One of the best poems to read for Father’s Day is Walt Whitman’s ‘On the Beach at Night.’ Another very powerful Father’s Day poem is ‘Only a Dad’ by Edgar Guest.
In most Father’s Day poems, the tone is loving or celebratory. These poems are usually used in order to show appreciation or gratitude towards a father figure in one’s life. In other cases, the poems are written by fathers for their children and show appreciation in the other direction.